Dear Teachers in the devastated area in Iran

I was so sorry to hear the news about the earthquake disaster. My name is Hiroshige Kihara. Iím working at the public elementary school in Fukuoka prefecture. Iíve been raising two nieces who survived the Great Hanshin Earthquake 9 years ago. They were 7 years and 12 years old at that time. Therefore, your heartrending situation is not only your problem. I canít help but be worried about the children who lost their families in the disaster. So please help those who are in the great sorrow. Here, I have things to tell you from my experience. I hope my suggestions will help in the caring for the children.
1. The children who lost their dearest families must be scared by the earth quakes, the minor quakes, and the cold in their sorrow. They are probably petrified right now. There should be some children who are crying and screaming. Let them cry as much as they want. Many adults would say "Stop crying." Or, "Forget about it" in regard to the things that scared you. I also used to say things like that. However, this is wrong. Children can not forget what they experienced. They can't help but cry. Adults can manage to get over difficulties, but this is impossible for children. What adults can do for the children now is to sympathize with them. You should let them cry as much as they want. Don't leave them alone, cry together. This is the most important thing and there is nothing you can do besides this. In reality, children can sort out their feelings by crying and feeling their pain.
2. This may surprise you but some children never drop any tears. The children may seem to be fine by outward appearances, so adults don't take their needs and hurts as seriously. However, this is wrong also. It could be the result of their self-defense because they are so shocked that they can't accept the facts of this devastating experience. They neither show their sadness nor their other emotions regarding delight, anger, sorrow and pleasure. And then suddenly they start crying violently. Adults should take this as a sign of recovery from their insensibility or impassivity. Stay with them and cry together.
3. The children may be spiritless for a while. Don't hasten their recovery because it takes time especially for children. The more you rush, the more time it takes. It seems like a good idea to let them draw many pictures during such a period. It is not bad to encourage them to draw images of their collapsed houses or the members of their families who died in the earthquake. The important thing is not to ask the meaning of those pictures. If they are not willing to show the pictures, let them keep those secret. Children draw unexpected pictures. There was a child who drew a black rainbow from the Great Hanshin Earthquake. The images in the deep heart of the children are shown in the drawings. Children can release their negative images and sort out their feelings by drawing. Adults should try to understand them. Don't ask them to redraw or fix it. Their drawings are the records from their minds. Keep them with care and don't lose them in the confusion of the disaster.
4. Think about yourself and your needs while taking care of the children. You need considerable energy to help people, so please take good care of yourself. In the Great Hanshin Earthquake, many volunteers got together to help children. Since there were so many orphans and it was not well established about how to take care of them, many of the volunteers who worked hard became sick. As a result, they needed "a counselor for the counselor". Therefore, you have to keep in good shape mentally and physically to take care of others.
I suppose that you are working hard in the confusion to establish the essential lifeline needs such as water, electricity, food, clothing, shelter and security. The children are in survival mode at this moment. I hope our experiences dating as far back as 9 years ago will help you. We can't send a lot of money or supplies to you, but we can share information from our experiences. Please ask JEARN about the information which you need.
(Hiroshige Kihara, Translation : Mayuko Hara)

 

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   since Jan.1, 2004 

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